the story of shep

The Story of Shep

Fort Benton
      The Birthplace of MontanaTM




Shep Fort Benton Montana's faithful dog


During the summer of 1936 a sheepherder fell ill while tending his flock and was brought to the St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton, Montana. A nondescript sheep dog had followed the herder into town and soon set up a vigil at the hospital's door. A kind hearted nun who ran the hospital kitchen fed the dog during those few days before the man died. The herder's family in the East requested that his body be sent back home.  On that August day the undertaker put the body on the east-bound train for shipment to his waiting relatives.  As the gurney was rolled out onto the platform, a big gaunt shepherd dog with watchful eyes appeared out of nowhere and watched as the casket was loaded into the baggage car.  Attendants later recalled the dog whining as the door slammed shut and the engine slowly started to pull away from the station, then head down, turning and trotting down the tracks. On that day the dog, later named Shep, began a five-and-a-half year vigil that was only broken by his death.

   


Day after day, meeting four trains daily, Shep became a fixture on the platform. He eyed each passenger hopefully, and was often chased off as a mongrel but never completely discouraged. Neither the heat of summer days nor the bitter Montana winter days prevented Shep from meeting the next train. As Shep's fame spread, people came from everywhere to see him, to photograph him, and to try and make friends and possibly adopt him. All of the attention was somewhat unwelcome; after checking the train he often retired quickly to get away from those who came to see him. Most people missed the point that Shep was a one-man dog. The bond he had formed with the herder many years before was simply the most important thing is his life. Food, shelter and attention were now provided by the railroad employees. That was all he wanted, except his master's return.  Shep was an older dog when he came to the station house in Fort Benton. Throughout his vigil the long nights under the platform and the cold winter had taken their toll. Stiff-legged and hard of hearing, Shep failed to hear old 235 as it rolled into the station at 10:17 that cold winter morning. He turned to look when the engine was almost upon him, moved to get out of the way, and slipped on the icy rails. Shep's long vigil had ended.

The Shep Memorial

With renewed interest generated by the fiftieth anniversary of Shep's death, the community of Fort Benton organized a committee to produce a lasting memorial to their famous dog. The West's most renown sculptor, Bob Scriver, was contracted to create a heroic-sized bronze statue of Shep. Etched bricks and miniature bronze statues were sold to finance the project, at a cost of about $75,0000.00. From photograph's and a Shep "look-alike," Scriver developed an imposing resemblance to Shep, expectantly standing with ears cocked, tail up, and his two front paws on the rail. He gazes longingly down the track awaiting his master's return. A beautiful site along the levee of the Missouri River was selected for the memorial. Located in the park across from the Grand Union Hotel along Front Street, Shepherd's Court quickly became the town's focal point. The large bronze statue was placed on a rough granite stone from a local quarry. The stone is low enough to permit even small children to stand beside the faithful dog - for petting and for pictures. A thirty-foot brick octagon surrounds the statue, where over eight hundred people have already placed a memorial brick to a loved one or to a beloved pet. There is room for seventeen hundred bricks in the completed Shepherd's Court. The statue is a fitting tribute to the faithfulness of man's best friend, and a reminder of the wonderful story of Shep, Forever Faithful.  
Video Courtesy of the Fort Benton Chamber of Commerce

For information on purchasing a memorial brick to be placed in Shepherd's Court contact:  The Shep Committee, c/o The River & Plains Society PO Box 262 Fort Benton, Montana 59442-0262. Phone 406-622-5316 or email them or click here to print the Shep brochure and order form

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